Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
NYFF ’16: My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea
the abject tragedy wrought by shoddy, corrupt school construction practices
during the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, one would think filmmakers would tread
carefully when using such subject matter, especially for comedic purposes. Yet rather
bizarrely, Dash Shaw essentially gets away with it, simply due to the slight,
inconsequential nature of his film. The titular secondary school is toast, but nobody
really cares in Shaw’s My Entire High
School Sinking into the Sea, which screens during the 54th New York Film Festival.
Shaw’s hip, self-referential protagonist is convinced sophomore year will be
better. However, the snide windbag is a just misery machine. For no good
reason, he is about to alienate his only friend Assaf (a fellow school paper
staffer) with a libelous erectile dysfunction story he slips past Verti, their
equally jaundiced editor. Yes, these are cartoon characters, but it is hard to
believe anyone could be such abrasive pond scum.
while Dash is on the outs with the paper, he stumbles onto the scoop of his
career. Apparently, the principle knowingly constructed the new auditorium over
unstable ground, which could indeed result in the entire high getting swept out
to sea. Of course, it won’t be a scoop for long. At least Dash will sort of
patch things up with Assaf and Verti when things go all Irwin Allen. Teaming up
Mary, Dash’s detention mate with student council ambitions, they will try to survive
sounds like My Entire Etc, Etc should
be a ton of morbidly subversive fun, but Shaw goes for long stretches
forgetting to add any jokes, just letting his characters amble about like they
are in some mumblecore time-waster. Stylistically, he takes a page out of the squiggly-lined
book of Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist,
but it wears better over thirty (frequently quite droll) minutes than during
the course of a somewhat slack seventy-five-minute feature.
turns out Thomas Jay Ryan can even class up this joint. His voice-over work as the
remorseful Principal Grimm is definitely the film’s best. In contrast, most of
the rest of the voice cast is a who’s who of annoying, droning-voiced hipsters
who have an army of publicists constantly telling us how popular they are, but
you would never invite them to your dinner party in a million years. Lena
Dunham! Jason Schwartzman! Reggie Watts! Alex Karpovsky! Kill me now!
Arguably, the events in question are pretty apt,
considering everyone involved in the film is just too cool for school. If Shaw
wants to stage a high-body-count school tragedy for laughs, that’s’ fine. He
just needs to bring more humor next time. Wafer-thin and weirdly
self-satisfied, My etc, etc might
play okay as an original for some online streaming service, but it doesn’t cut
it as a theatrical feature. A real disappointment, My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea screens Monday (10/10)
and Tuesday (10/11) during this year’s NYFF.
Labels: Animated films, NYFF '16